Law Enforcement Week
“It’s what they signed up for,” is something I’ve heard before when a law enforcement officer is killed, shot at, spit on, stabbed, punched in the face or talks about struggles of the profession. Over the past twenty years I’ve worked with tons of cops and whether they were good or not-so-good at their job, the thing that has been fairly consistent among them was their sense of duty to serve and help the people in their community. They wanted to try to make their town safer, they wanted to arrest criminals and help those needing assistance - whether that help came in the form of solving a crime, recovering stolen property, beating an ambulance to a home where someone had collapsed and needed CPR, getting a water valve shut off at two in the morning when the pipes busted, catching a snake that slithered into a house, changing a tire or any other form of help. They didn’t sign up to receive thanks, but they also certainly didn’t sign up to get shot at. They didn’t sign up to get killed - never seeing their spouses, friends or children again – but they understand it’s a possibility each and every day. They assume the risk and accept the possibility of dying in order to help their neighbors because someone has to step forward and do the job..
As of this morning (Sunday), there have been 41 Law Enforcement Officers killed in the line of duty so far this year in America. Forty-one husbands, wives, aunts, uncles, sons and daughters, who not only served their communities as law enforcement officers, but also coached softball, volunteered on fire departments and with their local schools. These are not anonymous people or statistics; they were active parts of their respective communities.
Those are the official line of duty deaths but certainly don’t include another growing yet under-reported number, one most people would like to ignore, and that’s the number of law enforcement officers who succumb to the stressors associated with this profession, and take their own lives.
While mental health impacts people from every walk of life and every profession, law enforcement is no exception. In fact, for the past three consecutive years, suicide has been the number one cause of death among law enforcement.
As it seems society is becoming more and more desensitized to the murder of their law enforcement, it’s disheartening for me to now include checking overnight law enforcement deaths to my morning ritual, so I can send condolences on behalf of our agency and county.
Regardless of where the officer is from, the color of his or her uniform, the shape of the badge or jurisdictional boundary line, the loss of a law enforcement officer in America impacts all of us and especially impacts those in our profession hard. The feeling of that impact is likely due to the strong bond we have with one another, considering fellow officers our brothers and sisters…family. That sense of family comes out of our shared commitment to duty and understanding of the daily challenges, which supersede any of those superficial barriers. We without question, count on one another with our lives.
This week is National Police Week, and since 1961, May 15th has been designated as Law Enforcement Memorial Day. I hope you will join me in remembering those who have died in service to their communities, but also feel a sense of gratefulness for those who strap on a ballistic vest every day and pin a badge to their chest, going out into this world, encountering the evil and dysfunctional parts of society everyone would rather pretend didn’t exist.
They serve on behalf of me, you and all of our community and we should all be thankful they do, because without them, who would?
Have a great week and God Bless!
Sheriff David Groves